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Monday, October 24, 2016
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 Hi - I've just got back from Thailand. Although I'd hoped to send reports from there, this wasn't possible because of my busy schedule and shortage of internet connections.

My journey began in Pattaya, a brash seaside resort which was a sleepy fishing village until the Vietnam War - when it became the R&R destination for thousands of American troops - with the obvious consequences. It is also home to the Redemptorists, who run schools for the blind, deaf and disabled, a home for elderly refugees, drop-in centre for street children and a new children's village where orphans live in small family houses with their carers. In Pattaya I also visited the Fountain of Life centre, run by the Good Shepherd Sisters, which offers vocational training and support for women and children, many of them refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Burma, who could otherwise end up in the sex trade.

Then I went down the coast to Rayong, where the Camillians run a beautiful residential centre for children with HIV/AIDS. When the project began, staff needed police protection and the children were shunned. Now they are more accepted in the community and many of the older children attend ordinary schools. In Bangkok I met Redemptorist Fr Joe Maier, who has worked in the slums for more than 30 years with the poor, street children and people with AIDS/HIV.

From there I flew to Nongkhai in the north, just across the Mekong River from Laos, where I met some more Good Shepherd Sisters. Sister Mary and Sister Joan, who worked in Vietnam throughout the war in the 1960s and 70s, have set up several employment projects in Nongkhai for women with HIV/AIDS, to enable them to earn their own living. At the centre they do some very fine pottery, handicrafts and weaving. The sisters also run advice and advocacy services. Nearby in the village of Don Wai I visited Sarnelli House - a home for more than 60 AIDS orphans run by Fr Mike Shea. The mission of Sarnelli House is to provide a safe, healthy, loving, and happy environment for these children for however long or short their lives may be. It was a cheerful place with children running about. While I was there a new baby was brought in.

Over the next few weeks I'm planning to write more about the people and projects I visited - most of which are sponsored by the Thai Children's Trust.

Jo Siedlecka
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